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Bunk Beds Pose Dangers to Both Kids and Young Adults

MONDAY June 2, 2008 -- Injuries related to use of bunk beds should be a concern for young adults as well as small children, a new study shows.

Three-quarters of the children who sustain bunk bed-related injuries are aged 10 or younger, but injuries have surprisingly risen among individuals those between the ages of 18 and 21, noted the study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

The study, which estimated an average of 36,000 bunk bed-related injuries annually over the 16-year period it analyzed, was published in the June issue of Pediatrics.

"Everyone wants to feel safe and secure while resting or sleeping, yet bunk beds are a common source of injury among children and adolescents," study co-author Lara McKenzie, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's, said in a prepared statement. "Our study found that bunk bed-related injuries can be severe and require hospital admission. In addition to children less than 6 years of age, young adults have a significantly increased risk of injury from bunk beds in schools, recreational sports facilities and public properties."

The study found 18- to 21-year-olds experienced bunk-bed injuries at nearly double the rate of children in the 14- to 17-year-old age group. The researchers speculated this may be because the older age group may use bunk beds more frequently due to the greater likelihood these individuals are in institutional settings, such as college dormitories and the military. The chance of injury from bed malfunction was also significantly higher for older children, possibly because of their larger size and increased weight.

Children less than age 3 were 40 percent more likely to suffer head injuries than older children, probably because their higher center of gravity tends to cause them to fall head first.

For all ages, falls were the most common injury related to bunk beds along with cuts, bruises, scrapes and bone fractures. Fractures, while the third most common injury, were nearly six times more likely to require hospital admission, transfer to another hospital or overnight observation than all other injuries.

The study called for better strategies to prevent bunk bed-related injuries, including:

  • using guardrails on both sides of the upper bunk with guardrail gaps being 3.5 inches or less to prevent entrapment and strangulation;
  • checking that the mattress foundation is secure and the mattress is of proper size;
  • not allowing children under age 6 to sleep in the top bunk;
  • using night lights to help children see in a dark room;
  • removing hazardous objects from around the bed; and,
  • placing bunk beds safely away from ceiling fans or other ceiling fixtures.

More information

SafeSleep. has more about bunk bed safety.

Posted: June 2008


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